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Daily civic engagement

edited November 2010
Fixing this fucked up country requires us to take action daily, not just in election season.

Every day, you can do something small. It's possible you already are. Let's catalog these things for the sake of mutual inspiration.

Today I emailed my new neighbors across the street, to see how we might be able to find some common ground to work together to make our neighborhood more active and liveable.


  • I think as part of daily civic engagement one should work to maintain a more rational and less radical outlook. The world is not ending.

    I was reading an article that mentioned a 1964 article in Harper's that talked about the "paranoid style in American politics," and said the paranoid "is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. ...As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to the finish."

    Which is not to say compromise is always the best solution. But you know, let's not get all crazy.
  • My way of processing it is that there are models: descriptions and theories of how something works that are useful predicting future events. We all work on mental models, explicit and implicit. In popular writing you find models (not named that in the popular press) in descriptions of science, especially physics, where things are very small or large, happen in very short time frames or incomprehensibly long times. While commonly applied to science, it applies to social and political world too.

    As for conspiracies, I believe that there is no reason to assume conspiracy when an explanation of mere incompetence explain the facts. Don't get me started on America's obsession with good and evil!
  • Um, fine.

    The atmosphere has carbon fever and there is zero short term economic incentive for the wealthiest (and most powerful) 1/2% of the planet's population to do anything significant about it at all.

    One need not be paranoid to recognize that there is a serious macro-level managerial problem here.

    One need not be paranoid to recognize that the legacy systems that presently determine global resource distribution and consumption (liberal nation-states, liberal markets) are wholly unprepared for rational, long-term resource management.

    This is where a rational conversation should begin, not with normalization of the status quo.
  • "more rational and less radical outlook"

    To put it bluntly, rational and radical are not opposites. Rational analysis may lead one to radical conclusions. I don't think Hofstadter would disagree with that. I think it's very very foolish to conflate moderation in tone with moderation in political goals. Hofstadter's annoying urban biases aside, one of his major contributions was a sort of Neibuhrian distrust of anyone who was convinced of their good moral standing in the context of complicated systems (what later progressives would identify as intersectionality in identity politics). But this must never excuse inaction. You don't have to believe that you're the good guys and those other people over there are the bad guys to think it's important to work for good and against evil.

    On the other hand, if you're advocating pragmatism of the Emersonian/Cornel West flavor, I can get behind that. Unfortunately the situation has deteriorated to the point where if you claim that taking action is morally compulsory, you're a "radical".
  • oh fuck i just used the word neibuhrian.
  • but that's okay! I love Neibuhr! Obama's favorite philosopher!
  • Radical may have been the wrong word, I agree. I meant "less radical" in regards to apocalyptic beliefs and conspiracy theories. Radical can be radical. :)
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